Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Swap meet and Valentine’s Day go hand in hand

Citizen Staff Writer
Cover story



Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching and this year I was determined to get my girlfriend something out of the ordinary.

Forget Tiffany & Co., Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret and all of the other usual mall hot spots that crank out the same old Valentine’s Day options year after year. This year, I would get my gal something special, a gift she would never forget. This year, I shopped at the Tanque Verde Swap Meet.

I understand this is not the first place people think of when trying to woo that special someone. Still, the swap meet has many of the same gift options provided by fancy mall stores. It is simply much more affordable.

For instance, a high-quality, designer Coach bag that would generally run somewhere between $300-$400 can be found hanging on a dusty wall at the swap meet for a smooth $20. The same goes for Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana and even Gucci.

Thinking about spending an exorbitant amount of money on some sexy lingerie for your lady? Surprisingly, the swap meet has you covered there as well. There is an entire booth dedicated to lingerie and women’s undergarments. Not only are sexy thongs priced at 2 for $5, but there is an entire bin to fish through to find that perfect pair. While I told myself I would not go the traditional route this V-Day, I couldn’t resist the price and picked up two pair that I was sure my girlfriend would love.

While the butterfly and “love me” thongs were great gifts, I continued my hunt for the surprise she would never expect, the one that would knock her socks off. That’s when I saw the sword and knives booth. “Well, you never know,” I thought.

The booth was lined with about a dozen glass cases chock-full of knives, brass knuckles, stun guns, pepper spray, swords and all kinds of horrible looking things, including a weapon called “vampire claws.” As I perused, a man next to me was interested in a fine set of knucks with the the letters L-O-V-E protruding so that, should the weapon be used, his lady friend would leave behind a message. I assumed he too was looking for that special gift.

Eventually the man behind the counter approached me and asked if he could help. I asked him if he could recommend a weapon for my girlfriend.

“Lethal or non-lethal,” he asked.

Aw, what the hell. “Show me the knives,” I said.

The man turned out to be very knowledgeable about his weapons. He recommended that I get a knife with what he called a “blood groove.” This would allow for a “smooth insertion” and would also be helpful for quickly removing after repeated stabbings, he said. While this was all very interesting, I came to the conclusion that describing how the “blood groove” worked in the candlelight of a nice dinner would be far from romantic.

While many of the booths at the swap meet had a fascinating variety of the strange and unusual, (i.e. open boxes of douches, assorted cough medicines and anything your heart could desire with a pot leaf printed on it) I couldn’t find a gift that was both unique and a legitimately good gift. Outside of getting her name tattooed in a heart on my neck at the swap meet tattoo shop, nothing said both romance and “surprise!” It wasn’t until my way out that I found my answer.

Just as I was ready to call it quits, I poked my head into one last shop near the exit. To my surprise, the shop was filled with a beautiful and colorful assortment of Middle Eastern shoes, bags, jewelry and clothing. This was it – the unique, exotic option that I had hoped to find by avoiding conventional stores. After checking out a few different options, I settled on a pair of shoes with a bright, intricately designed pattern flowing across the top of them that my girlfriend would absolutely love. They were only $15.

During my trip to the Tanque Verde Swap Meet I learned a lot of things: the value of an open box of tampons, the importance of a blood groove and that a whole pack of “Sharnie,” not to be confused with “Sharpie” permanent markers, only cost $1. The most important lesson? If you are willing to take the time and look around the swap meet, not only will you have a great time, but you really can find a diamond, or a least a faux diamond, that really sparkles.

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